walsh double vital for cats
Hoban's lads claim 21st title for black and amber
THE Cats have found a new, rising star after John Walsh inspired Kilkenny in Sunday's Electric Ireland All-Ireland MHC final at Croke Park.
Walsh hit 2-5 from play as the black and amber defeated favourites Limerick 2-17 to 0-19 to lift the Irish Press Cup for a 21st time.
It concluded a remarkable summer for the young Cats who began their Leinster MHC campaign against Dublin when they were comprehensively beaten (2-8 to 0-3) before getting down to work to emerge victorious through Leinster, when outclassing the Dubs in the provincial decider, and eventually being crowned All-Ireland champions yesterday at GAA headquarters.
The Leinster champions were viewed as outsiders to win a record 21st title as they faced a highly-rated Limerick side at Croke Park.
But Pat Hoban's Cats were full value for the success and only trailed briefly against a Limerick side chasing a first win since 1984.
Mullinavat club man Walsh was the star man, shooting two second-half goals to effectively secure Kilkenny's first title since 2010.
The Leinster champions led by 0-12 to 0-10 at half-time and had Darren Brennan to thank for keeping their goal intact before Walsh took centre stage with goals in the 40th and 52nd minutes.
For back-to-back Munster champions Limerick, the long wait for All-Ireland success at this level goes on.
They looked a good bet to bridge the 30-year gap since their last national title after outclassing Galway in their semi-final, but found a Kilkenny side, who improved with every game and were both ruthless and clinical yesterday, to be a totally different proposition.
Limerick generally played catch up on a Kilkenny side that were a step ahead for most of the half.
Kilkenny opened up a double scores 0-6 to 0-3 lead after 15 minutes thanks to a brace of points each from Walsh and Ronan Corcoran.
Walsh was a class apart and five points from him helped Kilkenny to a two-point interval advantage.
All of the scores came from play while Alan Murphy showed his prowess from placed balls with two great points from long range.
Limerick shuffled their deck considerably, moving wing-back Colin Ryan into attack and dropping wing-forward and captain Cian Lynch back to midfield.
They failed to ignite as many expected though and Kilkenny moved four clear after the restart, 0-14 to 0-10.
Three missed goal opportunities, one by Conor Fitzgerald and two by Peter Casey, cost Limerick dearly.
Walsh made no mistake at the other end with a kicked goal for Kilkenny after 40 minutes, leaving them 1-14 to 0-13 clear.
Kilkenny retained a three point advantage at 1-17 to 0-17 with seven minutes remaining when Walsh hit his second goal.
He was fed by Murphy after a great solo run and calmly finished from close range to double their lead and all but claim the victory for Pat Hoban's talented team.
This was the decisive scores as corner-forwards Murphy and Walsh combined for the latter to fire low to the Limerick net.
Lynch and sub Barry Murphy got points back for the Shannonsiders, while Nash fired another goal chance wide but the Noresiders had done enough for captain Darragh Joyce (pictured) to lift the Irish Press Cup.
SCORERS - Kilkenny: J Walsh 2-5, A Murphy 0-6 (0-3f, 0-1 '65'), R Corcoran 0-3, L Blanchfield 0-2, L Scanlon 0-1. Limerick: R Lynch 0-9 (0-6f, 0-2 '65'), C Lynch 0-3, S Flanagan, T Morrissey, B Nash 0-2 each, B Murphy.
KILKENNY: D Brennan; C McGrath, C Delaney, T Walsh; P Lyng, J Cleere, D Joyce; C Browne, L Scanlon; A Murphy, R Butler, R Corcoran; S Morrissey, L Blanchfield, J Walsh. Subs: B Ryan for Butler (ht), E Kenny for Browne (38), A Gaffney for Corcoran (59).
LIMERICK: E McNamara; L Lyons, P O'Loughlin, S Finn; T Grimes, A La Touche-Cosgrave, C Byrnes; R Hanley, C Lynch; S Flanagan, T Morrissey, C Ryan; R Lynch, B Nash, P Casey. Subs: C Fitzgerald for Byrnes (16), E Doyle for Fitzgerald (ht), J Porter for Lyons (ht), B Murphy for Grimes (54).
REF: F Horgan (Tipperary).